Wisaksil Wangek: From trash collector to Roman Gonzalez conqueror
CARSON, Calif. — Wisaksil Wangek was poor.
And not the kind of poor that is often seen in the United States, with at least access to aid, shelters and government assistance.
Dirt poor. So poor that sometimes, during his routine route as a trash collector in Bangkok, he would stash away some of the scraps for himself — food to survive on his worst days.
To even apply for the position, Wangek had to trek more than 60 miles by foot to the department store he would eventually work at.
Wangek wanted — needed — to make a change. He had the burning desire to be great. But with a paltry boxing record of 1-3-1, the future was bleak.
Even so, he believed in himself and wanted a better life. So he made the decision to dedicate his life to boxing. He worked day in and day out to improve. Wangek eventually become known as Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, a bona fide 115-pound contender.
After that defeat to Kenji Oba in Japan in 2010, he reeled off 26 consecutive victories in non-descript bouts in his native Thailand.
When he went for No. 27, it was in a title fight against Carlos Cuadras, and he put up a spirited performance but lost a technical decision when the Mexican couldn’t continue due to a cut from a headbutt following Round 8.
Sure, he wasn’t champion, but he no longer was the trash collector known as Wisaksil Wangek. He was Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, junior bantamweight contender.
Eight years after he decided to dedicate his life to boxing, he was something far greater than even champion. Rungvisai had accomplished the impossible with an upset victory over Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, the recognized pound-for-pound best fighter in the world.
Was it a fluke? Maybe. Did he deserve the decision? Probably not. But that doesn’t matter. Wangek is out to prove six months later that he isn’t a one-hit wonder; that he is the better fighter. And there’s no better way to leave no doubt than with a clear victory over Gonzalez in a rematch of their bloody war Saturday at StubHub Center on HBO.
“This fight will eliminate all the doubts that people might have because I want to make it very clear that I am the best super flyweight in the world,” Wangek (43-4-1, 39 knockouts) said through a translator. “I will win even more convincingly this time.”
The first encounter was an incredible display of guts, inside fighting and determination. Gonzalez connected with seemingly every power punch he threw. Wangek, 30, didn’t just absorb the shots and keep marching forward, undeterred. He even laughed at times.
Call it masochistic. Call it sadistic. But nothing was going to break Wangek’s will, even if Gonzalez clearly was the superior fighter in terms of athleticism, technique and overall skill.
Several clashes of heads opened up numerous deep gashes all over the Nicaraguan’s face. Surely, they had an effect on the fight, but Wangek isn’t apologizing for his aggressive style.
“It’s normal when an orthodox fighter and southpaw fighter face each other that there are headbutts,” Wangek said. “It was not my intention to have a clash of heads, Roman was also bending down and towards me.”
A second victory over Gonzalez, this time without controversy, could catapult Wangek into pound-for-pound discussions. Gonzalez, after all, is an all-time great; a first-ballot hall of famer when it’s all said and done.
If Wangek loses, his triumph from March will quickly be forgotten. Chalked up to luck and questionable judging.
He can’t allow that. Not after all the days wondering what trash can his next meal might come from. He’s here in Southern California to knock off a legend once and for all. And he isn’t going to apologize for it.
Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger